Guest Report: Kumite! II

by Paul Fiero

The Knights TAPlar of Jackson, MI recently held Kumite! II, their second annual Old School MTG event, on April 13, 2019. One of the event organizers, Paul Fiero, provided a report as well as retrospective on fostering MTG community. Many Lords of the Pit traveled to battle at Kumite! II and we are happy to share his thoughts with you via this guest post. Thanks, Paul, and thanks as well to all the Knights TAPlar for hosting a terrific Gathering!

*Kumite! II*

Hello, I’d like to thank the Lords for giving me a place to share my unsolicited thoughts on what I find great about Old School MTG and Kumite! II.  I’d also like to give a big shout out to Lord Mullen for all his help with keeping the day running smoothly and helping herd the cats that Magic players happen to be.

My MTG compulsion started in 1996 when I fell in love with the game and immediately started teaching every person that I could to spread the infection and hook more people to play with.  I was fortunate to be able to find a group of people (some I taught, others I just ran into) that I could start playing with on the regular.  There is something about having a community to share this game with that is special.  It was good to have a reason to spend hours on end with these friends, staring at cards, building the next killer deck, or just looking at the new cards that anyone was able to get.

Years later and it is still somehow just as fun to spend time with like-minded people looking through new cards that someone acquired and building the next killer deck.  I have found that this game is great as a sort of social background noise to bring people together and have something to do in companionable silence should conversation lag for a period.  Without the pressure to keep a conversation going, it allows me to have more freedom and I find that the discussion, roasts and inside jokes flow more easily. The game also allows for people to have a good connection point to start talking about, and to be naturally curious about what cards a new person has, how they got into this game or Old School in particular, or any of another interesting avenues of getting to know somebody.

*Pre-Kumite! conversation*

For me, going to events is the best opportunity to meet new people that I can connect with and find new stories, share my own, and just generally spend time with a fun activity.  I enjoy trying to show how smart I am and winning is fun, but meeting people leads to more joy in the long run than a random W at some event.  Another nice feature about events is that if you happen to run into someone that you don’t enjoy as much then you have a great excuse to get out of the interaction once the round is done.  In college I got back into the game and I was active in the FNM and PTQ scene at that time.  I was a slightly above average player in a small pond but was never overly successful.  I was okay with that performance as generally I was able to meet new people who were interesting and win enough to feel like going back for more.  However, after college there were no events to pull various play groups together back home in Jackson, MI.

*Registration table and the Orb Flip post looming*

Coming back and not knowing how to connect was frustrating, so I decided to be the change I wanted and started to coordinate events locally on my own as the shop in town had no interest in doing that.  Fortunately, we were able to get people who can sometimes be reclusive to come out to take a chance and build up a decent community of 15-20 people who would play somewhat regularly.  The chance to start this community and get to know everyone was nice, and I was heavily involved with the community even after a store decided that it would be good for business for them to run these events themselves.  My involvement in that community dropped off very quickly once my son was born and I made the conscious decision to focus on other hobbies over Magic and cut back to basically pre-releases and Cube.

For a year or two that was okay, but I had the good fortune to meet up with most of the core of the Knights TAPlar early on when I was starting events in Jackson and had stayed in touch with Rob, Pete and Mike through the years.  I heard about Old School from them and suddenly things like pre-releases weren’t a priority and instead I was soon picking up cards like Beta Prodigal Sorcerers and Unlimited Pirate Ships.  I was pulled in by the mystery and allure of the old cards, but that soon just became a conduit for how to spend time with people I enjoy and find new people that I would enjoy spending time with.  After the first Old School event that I went to I was hooked with the community.  The excitement that people have about their pet cards, decks, or collections in general is fun to witness.  Giving people a chance to share what they are passionate about is a great way to get to know them better and by default people start branching out into other areas like music, philosophy, beer drinking, and eventually friendships.

*Pete Lupo and Phil "Hill Giant" Hillman of the Knights TAPlar*

These types of connections aren’t on the same level as what I was finding playing other formats like Standard, Modern, or going to any of the PTQ and GP level events that I had been to.  It’s not that the people at those events are bad or not capable of those connections, but our goals were different.  If I’m looking for connections in a larger MTG community and my opponent for any given round is just looking for victory in a tournament the area of common ground that we have to connect just isn’t as big.  With Old School there is a much higher alignment of goals and expectations leading to much better connection with those that you’re able to interact with.

I’m about 1,000 words in to explain why I was so inspired to organize the Kumite! event in Jackson.  I really enjoyed our community here and the opportunities that the Librarians and Lords provided for me to get out and meet new people and play.  It seemed like an easy thing for me to say that with our location we should do something for them so that they can all come out to our neck of the woods and have a good meet up without needing to worry about the logistics.  Getting the other Knights on board was easy and we were off and running.  Huge props to Mike, Pete and Rob for their help with all the prizes that really make this event unique.  If you haven’t seen some of the work that has been posted by these guys in various hype posts for the Kumite! then take a look below to see the alters that we were able to hand out.

*The prize table in all its glory*

*More Kumite! II altered prizes*

This year we had 36 people attend and raised just over $600 for a Jackson charity that supports the cost of therapy for people with eating disorders and their families.  The event was everything that I could have hoped for with people from all over having a chance to meet up and make connections.  Everywhere that I looked throughout the event there were new groups of people chatting, sharing stories or some spicy new tech for a deck that they were working on.  There were also plenty of other formats from Alpha 40, to Revised 40 and Middle School all going on throughout the day.  As for the spiciness level of the event, it was fantastic.  People were really taking to heart the idea of tuning up their favorite little combination to be the best that it could be.  One of my favorite stories on the day is that the only game loss that the Moss “End Boss” Monster picked up on the day was to a Kobolds deck.  There was a fantastic Eureka Lich deck that was a beauty both from the alters as well as the overall design of the deck piloted by Rajah James that wrecked me in Game 1 with a strong Fastbond start.

There was some sick sideboard tech by Rob Matthews for his White Weenie deck to deal with Gloom and he was able to put it to full effect against Ryan Jean as shown below.

*Answering Gloom*

Greg Kotscharjan also had a super spicy list with Rukh Eggs and Diamond Valleys. Then there was the dynamic duo of mono green decks (Carter Petray and Lorian Elleman) that ended up taking third and fourth place which is a sure sign that the event was a success.  Big thanks to Shaman Ben for bringing the most appropriate prize to award to some of the spicy decks which Russ Strawsine (on Kobolds) won.

*Penzey's Spice for Russ' Kobolds*

*The Kobolds at-work*

Finally, we also had a Chaos Orb Flipping contest for all of the participants at Kumite! It was a sudden death contest to see who could get the most hits in a row, with a small twist.  After every five successful flips, the height over the target increased by six inches.  This year’s winner was Matt “I guess I’ll just sweep the event” Moss with 16 flips.  That’s not just 16 flips in a row, but one of those flips was from 30” above the target. The next best was Andrew McLennan with 13 flips, showing that there are still strong Librarian/Lord rivalries to be celebrated.

Before signing off, I’d like to lay out a situation that I ran into at the Kumite! and ask for feedback as to what you would have done.  In the best tradition of European event organizers, I started the event 4-0 and was hoping to take down my own event as there was a sick Berserk Pete had done that I had my eye on.  However, part of getting to that point was a situation I’m not sure I handled well in the third round.  My opponent just stomped me in Game 1 and frankly it was super cool to see their deck work so well and just give me no chance to be in the game.  The first game went by so fast that they didn’t really know what I was on (the Pirate hat might have been a clue for those in the know) and so they didn’t board much.  In the second game there was a little bit more play to our game, but they were still able to get their combo run out and were in the process of comboing off, but I had managed to get a Living Plane on the field which really put a damper on their plans as it made all of their lands they were putting into play sick and unable to tap for mana.  They shared that they had the Demonic Tutor in-hand with a Lotus and had dug into a Mox Sapphire, but wasn’t sure how to finish it out as all the plays they had in-mind took too much mana of different colors.  They passed the turn and I killed them on my next turn to go to force a Game 3.  However, as we were sideboarding for Game 3 my opponent was visibly frustrated by being so close and not able to finish the match, and we discussed that turn a bit more and I asked why he didn’t just Tutor for a Time Walk.  At that point his jaw just about dropped and he saw his mistake and took it a little hard.  Game 3 was a non-game as there were some mulligans by my opponent and I was able to lock him out.  Now the question I have wrestled with from the start of that Game 3 until now is, should I have conceded the match to that opponent?  I didn’t care if I won, I was just there to bring people together and sling some cards.  He had me dead to rights in that Game 2 and just didn’t see that path until it was too late.  I would very much like to hear any thoughts on this and any discussion this might spark.

Remember, keep your Islands nice so your Pirate feels good going home.

Dread Pirate Tim

*Final Standings*

*Amber Lupo - UG Aggro*

*Ben Perry - Eureka*

*Perry Sideboard & Loots*

*Carter Petray - Monogreen*

*Dan Guajardo - Grixis Counterburn*

*Dan Piquard - Pink Weenie*

*David Lance - Naya Bazaar Zoo*

*Greg Kotscharjan - Diamond Valley Control*

*David Lance - Monoblack*

*Jason Jaco - Underworld Trix*

*Jay Krusac - Ifh-Biff Disko*

*Lorien Elleman - Monogreen*

*Matt Moss - Mossatog*

*Michael Tabler - 5C Atog*

*Nick Rohr - Mana Flare.dec*

*Nick Viau - Monoblue Illness*

*Paul Fiero - Living Plane Combo*

*Pete Lupo - Grixis Goodstuff*

*Phil Hillman - Monored*

*Rajah James - Eurekalich*

*Rajah Transformational Sideboard*

*Robert Matthews - White Weenie*

*Russ Strawsine - Monored Kobolds*

*Ryan Jean - Reanimator*

*Steve Maldonado - 5C Fatties*

*Steve McGrew - 5C Power Monolith*